November 4, 2013
There are a couple of A-7 Corsair IIs on I-75 that always catch my eye whenever I make the drive between Florida and Illinois. During a recent trek to rehab an old house and to take the kids to the in-laws, some new finds came into view, like the TA-4J Skyhawk next to a small airport in Kentucky — oh, and the ICBM I spotted behind the Gas-N-Go at the Cordele, Georgia, exit.
According to the Cordele plaque, the missile was placed there in 1969 by what was then the Confederate Air Force. It came from a silo in California, and was acquired with help from the local Chamber of Commerce. The Titan I was in service from 1962 to 1965, and in later Titan II form, was the launch vehicle for Gemini XI. Besides being next to the aforementioned Gas-N-Go (man, filling up the old minivan has gotten expensive), the website Roadside America helpfully notes that the formidable weapon, once designed to rain death on Soviet cities, is now conveniently located near a Krytstal hamburger restaurant.
Other attractions along our trip included the Don Garlits Museum of Drag racing, which features one of those A-7 Corsair IIs, a former gate guard at a Naval Air Station and now on loan from the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. Garlits’ museum is a must-see for any gear head, and also contains some interesting aviation treats. Garlits was once known for drag racing a few Navy aircraft on a runway, and even aboard a carrier. Inside, there’s a racer powered by an Allison V-12 that (according to the display) came from a Curtiss P-40. The display also says the engine once had a bullet hole in its crankcase. Garlits, in his youth, raced drop tank racers — cars fashioned from WWII aircraft external fuel tanks — but I searched in vain for an example.
Sure, there’s the National Air and Space Museum, but what about the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California? Or the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, Pennsylvania? Headed through McMinnville, Oregon? Don’t miss the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, home of Howard Hughes’ massive Spruce Goose. Or, check out the atomic cannon in Junction City, Kansas.
-F-94C located in Erie, Pa.
-F9F-9 located in Tonawanda above Buffalo, NY.
-Two CF-101C Voodoos located FBO Gila Bend, Arizona.
-Four derelict DC-3′s located on US 63 north of Rolla, MO on Vichy Airport.
-B-26 Invader old route 66 El Reno, OK.
-South of Rolla MO, on US 63 Patton tank at Veterans Hall.
-B-52 located in Rome, NY.
Sure beats visiting the world’s largest ball of twine. (Clark Griswold never told you where, but it’s located in Kawker City, KS.)
July 2, 2013
Once a month, scrambled eggs, strong coffee and fellowship combine in a crowded hangar in Taylorville, Illinois at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1315′s regular pancake breakfast. Recently we stopped by Taylorville Municipal Airport while visiting my in-laws Vito and Mary, who live in nearby Springfield. Taylorville (KTAZ) has two paved runways — the longest a bit over 4,000 feet — and a grass strip beloved by its local pilots. Its operations office features glass cases filled with die-cast models donated by John McClure, and the hangar outside is crammed with three wingless Learjets. Wooden racks house cowlings and other spare parts.
As we cleaned our styrofoam plates on long folding tables, my brother-in-law, Brian Prinzavalli — who’s an enthusiastic pilot in two Las Vegas-area EAA chapters — and Larry Snyder chatted next to the hangar doors. A handful of kids, mine included, had been eyeing the sky and watching the occasional airplane taxi up for fuel, and it didn’t take much to convince Snyder to bring his Beechcraft A36 Bonanza out of its hangar for an impromptu “Young Eagles” event.
He could take three passengers at a time, so the kids discussed who would go first, and with which fellow traveler, with all the seriousness of the U.N. debating a resolution. Who would sit up front? Should the girls, including cousins Olivia and Chloe, go together, or should sister and brother? But what if that bumped a BFF?
Ultimately, it was decided. The two boys would fly first, so I walked my son Ian and his cousin Tommy to the Beech. Ian took the right seat and Tommy sat facing aft. Jerking a thumb at the extra seat, Snyder invited me aboard, and within a minute, the door thunked closed and we were holding short to Runway 18 while he ran up the engine and checked the magnetos. No intricate ballet of overhead bin stuffing, safety briefings from the flight attendant, or endless taxiing. Flying at Taylorville means you just throw on a headset and go — and we were definitely number one for take off.
The bumpy Midwestern air became smooth at about 2,200 feet as we climbed above a thin layer of clouds. Grain silos, the concrete ribbon of Highway 29 and the neighboring town of Edinburgh passed sedately below. Snyder told Ian to grasp the yoke. After a few calmly delivered instructions, Snyder’s hands were off the controls and it was Ian’s airplane. For the next 10 minutes, I craned my neck forward and watched my 12-year-old son execute five gentle turns to bring us downwind and back to the airport, all the while scanning for traffic like a pro.
Three girls went next, and Eve, my daughter, took right seat. After the Beech returned to Earth with a tire chirp, I could see her bouncing up and down in her seat from excitement as they came off the runway. She too, got some good stick time, and Snyder handed me his phone so I could send myself a photo of a beaming and confident 9-year-old girl (wasn’t she just using sippy cups?) piloting a Bonanza.
Since 1992, the EAA has flown more than 1.6 million kids through its Young Eagle program, which is aimed at exciting a new generation of kids about careers in aviation, or simply enjoying the freedom of a private license.
I know two kids who just got hooked.